1,200-acre brush fire north of Ventura is 60% contained; evacuation orders lifted

The 1,200-acre brush fire north of Ventura is 60% contained, Pacific Coast Highway has been reopened in both directions and all mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted, officials said Sunday.

The fire began about 11 p.m. Friday and quickly spread, with flames pushed by north winds that reached 50 mph, according to Chief Mark Lorenzen of the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire prompted mandatory evacuations in the Solimar Beach neighborhoods. Holiday campers were also forced to evacuate nearby campgrounds.

All mandatory evacuations were lifted at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Fire also forced the closure of a section of Pacific Coast Highway between Ventura and Santa Barbara. But the highway was reopened in both directions about 2 p.m.

The fire was about 60% contained Saturday evening.

So far no structures have been burned and no injuries have been reported, authorities said.

The fire burned three railroad ties on tracks running along the coast. About 10 a.m. Saturday, Union Pacific was able to resume service on the tracks.

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About 600 area firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze and are being assisted by at least two water-dropping helicopters.

“It’s still a dynamic situation and it could change,” said Cmdr. Norm Plott of the Ventura County Fire Department. “It’s still not a contained fire so I just want to caution that any openings that do happen are subject to being closed again if the fire changes direction.”

The firefighters' biggest concern remains the wind, which was blowing at 25- to 35-mph in the area on Saturday.

A wind advisory will remain in effect for parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties through noon Sunday, said Stuart Ceto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service.

Under the wind advisory, gusts could reach 40 mph, Ceto said. There will be strong north winds Saturday night, before the winds shift and turn to the northeast on Sunday morning. By the afternoon, winds could be down to 15 mph.

“This is more like a Santa Ana,” Ceto said. “We’ve got high pressure coming in behind it that’s going into the great basin area. It’s a cold Santa Ana, not our normal warm Santa Ana. It’s going to keep temperatures down.”

Firefighters responded to multiple calls of a brush fire about 10 miles north of Ventura shortly after 11 p.m. Friday along Highway 101, which was closed from West Main Street in Ventura to Route 150 in Santa Barbara, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Shortly after 1 a.m. the fire had reached the tunnels at State Beaches, off the 101 just north of Ventura. The blaze had also stopped rail traffic through the region.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Concerned residents can check fire updates at www.vcemergency.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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UPDATE

6 p.m.: This post was updated with new information about containment and evacution orders.

6 p.m.: This post has been updated with the new containment figures and other details.

2:30 p.m.: This post has been updated with new information regarding the reopening of Pacific Coast Highway and new information about mandatory evacuations.

1:50 p.m.: This post has been updated with new information about the reopening of a section of Pacific Coast Highway.

11 a.m.: This post has been updated with new information regarding fire containment and other details.

10 a.m.: This post has been updated with new figures on acreage and weather conditions.

7:45 a.m. Updated with additional details.

5:04 a.m.: Updated with details.

4:20 a.m.: Updated with 900 acres burned.

This article was first posted at 2:47 a.m.

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